There is no truth. Take a glass, for example. Lola picks it up sometimes, half full, to drink its water. Then she picks it up sometimes, half empty, to throw it at me. It misses because girls can’t throw (that’s why to insult a guy you say he throws like a girl) and it breaks like little promises.
Little promises. Let’s take a big one, actually. Like when Lola, naked and tightly held in my arms in our uncomfortable bed, says she loves me. I love you, and wanna spend the rest of my life with you, she says, constantly. And I always believe her, because I’m a sucker for compliments and because I’m naive and because I love her also.
So I tell her I love you.
But when I come home from work today, I observe she’s not her usual self. She’s not fidgeting or restless like always. She’s not trying to pinch or tickle me like always, trying to seduce me for sex then turn away for a laugh like always. She’s not listening to any music, not even some shitty album by Mick Jagger from his solo 80s career, like always.
She’s pensive as hell, like never. I have to ring the bell three times (third time’s the charm, right?) before she opens the door, and it’s not like she lives in a luxurious palace where she has to cross a football field-length room to open it. It’d be closer to the truth saying she could open the door from her bed.
She doesn’t jump on me, doesn’t look at me. She doesn’t say I love you, or maybe she does, but she mutters it and it’s not audible.
I’m starving. I’m not sure whether I say this or just think it out loud but she says, I wasn’t in the mood to make dinner, there’s some stuff in the fridge.
Finally I get a good look at her. I see the damp eyes; I’m no Sherlock Holmes but I know that spells “crying”. And I ask her what’s wrong.
Nothing, she tells me.
I don’t know why, but whenever she’s got something wrong and I ask her about it, she always says nothing. And everytime it frustrates me, because I expect an elaborate answer, immediately.
I do have the option of not going further in my inquiry; I could open the fridge and prepare something for my starving stomach. But then after a few minutes I would be accused of not caring and only thinking about eating.
C’mon, I know there’s something wrong. Come here, I tell her, opening my arms for her to fall into. She doesn’t budge, staying a few feet from me. She doesn’t say anything more, either.
Then she asks the most alarming question possible: Do you have a cigarette?
In our nine months together, she’s never asked me one. I have seen her smoke a few times, but it was only taking puffs from my lit cigarette. Once or twice, all of them in the early part of our relationship, she accepted a full cigarette when I offered, but until then I’d never known her to ask for one.
You wanna smoke?
Well, that’s stating the obvious, she curtly says.
I could answer back, God knows I want to as much as any teenager when wrongly scolded by unfair parents, but nine months in a relationship has taught me I know better. Instead I head toward the sink to get the ashtray and on the way I notice a bottle of wine downed 3/4th of the way and two glasses, one empty and the other half full.
Again, I’m no Sherlock Holmes but by then I’m uneasy. I ask her if she had company, and when after a minute she doesn’t answer, the unease sets in with ease in my skin and in my head.
OK, I say, trying to take a commanding tone while holding the ashtray back toward her, now you’re going to tell me who was here, and what the problem is. And right now.
She knows I’m not kidding anymore, and she was probably waiting for this.
Mike came by today, she says, curt again. By now I’ve handed her the cigarette and a lighter and from the first, deep drag, it seems like this is an event she’s been awaiting for a very long time.
Mike is her ex. I first met him on our first date in one of her favorite bars. Bars and ex, two bad omens reunited in one. Thinking back now, I guess I should have seen it coming. I’m pissed that she doesn’t go on, that I have to drag out the answers the way she’s dragging on her cigarette. Her eyes are still damp and she’s still not looking at me.
I move closer to her, my head a melting pot of questions. Should I yell, be sensible? Hit her? Ask her why he came, or what happened?
I move closer to her and say, and?
She looks at me for the first time. I see the water bubbling in her eyes, the tears ready to roll down her cheeks. I see the puffs of her cigarette and her fingers fidgeting, I feel my heart beating faster and faster, gaining momentum, pounding like a maniac would on the door of his cell and I say and? again and still she doesn’t answer and now my whole body is shaking and all kinds of thoughts are racing by in my mind like a speed-racer.
So what the fuck happened?
Silence. I don’t think silence happened between her and Mike but it happens now, between her and me. And I can’t stand it. I’m still waiting for an answer, but I’m also trying to calm myself down. I go over to the stereo and put on Since I’ve Been Loving You, by Led Zep.
I didn’t ask him to come over, you know. And I certainly didn’t want anything to happen. I mean … She takes a puff again, blows out the smoke slowly, shakes her head.
Yeah, but something fucking happened, then? Right? Anger. It was in me, has been in me for a while, but now the fucker is out. And furious. I move closer to her, grab the cigarette out of her hand and put it out in the ashtray. The music soothes me a bit, comforts me, but not enough to prevent me from grabbing her hands, forcefully, too much maybe, it will probably leave red marks after and I know she’s hurting, I see it in her eyes, but I know her pride, also, and she doesn’t say anything, pretends she feels nothing.
I let go.
I love you, she says.